“The Wealth and Commerce of Constantinople” was written between 1165 and 1173 C. E. Constantinople was founded by Constantine the Great in 324 C. E. and was the capital city of the Roman Empire. Constantinople is described in the Source from the Past “The Wealth and Commerce of Constantinople” and also in Jonathan Harris’ book Constantinople: Capital of Byzantium. The document, “The Wealth and Commerce of Constantinople” is important because it reflects on the growth of Constantinople as a wealthy city that thrived on trade and its location.
From reading the primary source, “The Wealth and Commerce of Constantinople” and the scholarly source, Constantinople: Capital of Byzantium there are more similarities found in both such as trade, location, wealth, goods, and the people while there is only one difference, the size of Constantinople. To begin, Spanish rabbi Benjamin of Tudela wrote “The Wealth and Commerce of Constantinople” during the twelfth century. He traveled throughout Europe, North Africa, and Southwest Asia to record the conditions of Jewish communities.
Then, he wrote an account of his travels on one of the most thriving cities of all he visited, Constantinople. Constantinople was a prosperous city because it was the center of trade for many cities near the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. Merchants traveled there by land and sea to sell their goods. Constantinople had many churches throughout the city, but the main church was Hagia Sophia, which was adorned with silver and gold. Each year on the anniversary of the birth of Jesus, there were huge celebrations for everyone, and people from all ver the world came to experience the celebration near the palace of the emperor. At this celebration, there were jugglers and different animals. The animals were brought there for the purpose of fighting.
Spanish rabbi Benjamin says in the Source from the Past, “No entertainment like this is to be found in any other land…. ” When the merchants came once a year to the city, they would bring tributes to Constantinople to fill the strongholds with. Spanish rabbi Benjamin states, “… very year 20,000 gold pieces, derived both from the rents of shops and markets and from the tribute of merchants enter by sea and land. ” The city had a lot to offer to its people such as cloth, bread, meat, wine, and amusement. The inhabitants of Constantinople had a luxurious lifestyle. The people who lived there, specifically the Greek inhabitants were, “… very rich in gold and precious stones, and they go clothed in garments of silk and gold embroidery, and they ride horses and look like princes. ” There is no other place that had the wealth of Constantinople during that historic era.
Similarly, “The Wealth and Commerce of Constantinople” agrees with the scholarly source, Constantinople: Capital of Byzantium in that they both described Constantinople as a city of trade. Harris states, “… it was a trade that was carried on by others. ” In the source from the past, Spanish rabbi Benjamin also agreed that trade was carried on by others, for example, the merchants that traveled to Constantinople to sell their goods. They were amazed at the large quantity of the items at Constantinople.
Harris’ says, “Foreigners were astonished by the opulence that they saw around them in Constantinople, especially the abundance of precious metals, jewels, and silk. ” Both sources also agree Constantinople’s geographical location gave it a benefit in the importing and exporting of goods. Another similarity between the scholarly source and the Source from the Past is both sources agree that meat, wine, and bread were plentiful commodities to everyone in Constantinople before the city began to increase in population and after aqueducts were created.
In both sources, it was understood that Constantinople was the wealthiest city in the world. The wealth, trade, food, people, and clothing were important to Constantinople because they all helped to keep the city flourishing and prosperous. On the other hand, there is a difference between “The Wealth and Commerce of Constantinople” and Constantinople: Capital of Byzantium. The difference is the size of the city. From reading the Source from the Past, it describes Constantinople as a small city because it reveals, “The circumference of the city of Constantinople is eighteen miles… However, Constantinople: Capital of Byzantium says, “By medieval standards it was a huge city, with something around three hundred seventy-five thousand inhabitants… ” In Constantinople: Capital of Byzantium, Harris describes Constantinople as a bigger city with a huge population and because of this they had problems feeding and supplying fresh water to the people as the city’s population grew.
Fortunately, Constantinople had the wealth and knowledge to fix the problems they faced by “creating a network of aqueducts to carry water in from the streams and rivers… The difference in size of Constantinople between the Source from the Past and the scholarly source is important because it is significant to know the size and the city’s ability to maintain and use the resources they have. The document on “The Wealth and Commerce of Constantinople” is still important but has a different size of the city. This is most likely because Spanish rabbi Benjamin was a traveler during a time in history in which he did not have the ability to give the accurate size of Constantinople or a way to tell how big the population actually was at that time.
Also, when Spanish rabbi Benjamin started traveling to Constantinople and all the other cities, his travels could have been in a time period when the city was just starting to grow, but it was still small. In Constantinople: Capital of Byzantium, Harris states, “No other city in the Christian world could match it in size… ” Harris got his doctorate in Byzantine History in 1993, so he most likely has better knowledge of how the population of Constantinople increased as years passed, and a more accurate account of how big the city’s size was at the time.
In conclusion, there were more similarities found in both sources such as trade, goods, and the people while there is only one difference, which was the size of the city. The document, “The Wealth and Commerce of Constantinople” is important because it reflects on the growth of Constantinople as a wealthy city that thrived on trade and its location. The abundance of wealth and what Constantinople had to offer attracted the traders to come to the city. Both the source from the Past and the scholarly source provide important descriptions of Constantinople’s trade, location, wealth, goods, and people.